Friday, October 10, 2008

THEM (David Moreau & Xavier Palud, 2006, France) This French thriller is based on the true story of the murder of an Austrian couple by some juvenile delinquents. While the basic element of the story may be true everything else is pure cinematic horror! The directors set the story in France where Clementine is a schoolteacher and her husband Lucas a writer. The story is foreshadowed by the murder of a mother and daughter after their van is forced off the road not far from our protagonist’s home. The film only runs 70 minutes and wastes little time with exposition or background; we meet Clem as she leaves school and drives home to be with Lucas. A few minutes banter over dinner establishes their relationship and helps the viewer create the empathetic bond: they seem like very nice people. Their house is isolated in a dense woods and accessible only by a gated road. But when the sun sets their fear rises. A strange sound startles Clem awake and the next fifty-minutes is sheer terror as these mysterious faceless intruders taunt and terrorize them. Though directors Moreau and Palud use many standard horror conventions they never allow the story to seem too far-fetched. Clem and Lucas react in a realistic manner and my disbelief was never challenged. As Clem races through the woods with dark figures chasing her, we feel the adrenaline terror. The antagonists are kept in shadows most of the film and when they are finally revealed it is disconcerting: they’re only children. THEM is a scary journey that has moments of sheer anxiety but it doesn’t offer any insight into the social issue it presents: the fact that the murderers were children who wanted to “play” seems tacked-on and of little value to the narrative. I believe the film would have been more effective if the killer’s identities were never revealed and we were left to consider the bleak meaninglessness of Clem and Lucas’s death. It’s scarier to know that the killers are still out there… (B-)

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